In her newest collection, Ellen Bass’s deft poetic touch and piercingly intimate voice continues an ongoing exploration of life’s essential question: how do we go on? These poems vividly inhabit sorrow and suffering, yet are rich with praise, delighting in the absurdity and humor of our flawed human intelligence. Like a Beggar handles the “the hard evidence of the earth” with grace, elegantly connecting the humble to the luminous.
In Praise of the Book
Listen to Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate Philip Levine discuss with Paul Muldoon Ellen Bass’s “What Did I Love” from Like a Beggar on the New Yorker podcast. “There is such a sense of ritual and such a clarity of purpose. . . . I found it so powerful and complex . . . and it was so exquisitely done. . . . She is a poet with terrific power.”—Philip Levine
“Ellen Bass has written these poems in service and celebration of Eros, the life force that can wake us, the weary citizens of this all too broken world. The poems know what they contend with; they don’t flinch. Then they sing their joy.”—Marie Howe
“Ellen Bass’s newest collection of poems shimmers with presence, power and beauty. In it Bass speaks from the deepest places of the heart, clearly, boldly, and with courage and grace. These are poems to be savored and devoured, over and over, for they brim with a wisdom that she clearly earns from the keen authenticity of her life. Like a Beggar is a gift, a blessing, a map, a chronicle, a hymn, and a cry—and most of all a dazzling, masterful work of art.” —Frank Gaspar
“The irony is that Like a Beggar is a book about riches. These are luxurious poems, full of gorgeous language; and they also ‘muddy their hands with the actual,’ they ‘handle the hard evidence of the earth.’ With great intelligence and heart, Bass wakes us up to the riches and reminds us of our better selves. The way Bass brings together the humble and the luminous in this elegant book sets it apart and makes it thrilling. Good poets help us to see the world in a new way; great ones open the mind to new ways of conceiving that world and our connections to it. Like a Beggar does this for me.”—Toi Derricotte
“Observant, curious, honest, not fancy but beautifully measured and crafted, Ellen Bass’s poems take on the whole cloth–she looks at wasps and bad habits and infidelity and old Jewish ladies, tomato fungus and the million other phenomena of our average lives. Plenty of bad news, here, plenty of heartbreak. Call her a midwife, call her a priest, if you’re from Berkeley, call her a life coach: in some way her poems talk us through it. She has a radiant, capable heart, a sense of humor, and knows her art. Reading her poems fills me with respect and gratitude.”—Tony Hoagland
“Her words are nostalgic, vivid, and visceral. . . . Bass arrives at the truth of human carnality rooted in the extraordinary need and promise of the individual. By [Like a Beggar]’s end—following her musings on suicide and generosity, desire and repetition—it becomes lucidly clear that Bass is not only a poet but also a philosopher and a storyteller.” —Briana Shemroske, Booklist